Beetle threatens lilies in Saskatchewan.

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Is Saskatchewan’s provincial flower – the prairie lily – under attack?

It could be, depending on the proliferation of an invasive alien insect known as the red lily beetle.

The bright red beetle has been spotted in various locations across the province this year and can pose a significant threat to cultivated and native lily species, including Saskatchewan’s iconic prairie lily, the province’s floral emblem.

Gardeners have reported sightings of the bright red insect in various communities, including Prince Albert and Saskatoon.

Provincial entomologist James Tansey said reports of the insect are widespread this year.

A parasitic insect species that attacks beetle larvae has been introduced to Alberta, but it remains to be seen whether the parasite has an impact on controlling beetle numbers in Saskatchewan, Tansey said.

The beetle is a voracious eater that can pose a serious threat to gardens, green spaces, and native lily species.

“There really is no mistake,” Tansey said.

“It really is a bright ketchup red, whereas a ladybug (or ladybug) is a little more subdued – a little more orange-red.”

“It’s an invasive beetle… which attacks lily species, including the prairie lily,” Tansy added.

“I would consider it maybe not a big problem economically, but environmentally, yes it is a big problem.”

Tansey said his phone was ringing constantly this summer with reports from concerned gardeners.

The beetle gained attention thanks to a local TV report earlier in the year.

Since then awareness and reports of the bug have exploded.

Adult beetles are six to eight millimeters in length and are easy to spot due to their bright red color.

They have a black head, black legs and black underside. They have long antennae and their body tapers sharply at the shoulder level.

The larvae have a yellow or orange body with black heads and are covered with a slimy black fecal matter that makes them look like bird droppings.

Beetles are native to Eurasia and were first documented in Canada in the early 1940s.

Researchers believe they first arrived in Montreal and slowly spread from there across Canada.

Their presence in Western Canada is fairly recent, but their number appears to be increasing.

According to the city of Calgary, where the insect has been established for years, adult beetles are powerful aircraft that can move quickly where there is a population of suitable host plants.

Beetles are also believed to be well adapted to native lily species.

Tansy said it’s likely the insect arrived in Canada in a shipment of infected bulbs.

The parasitoids that were released in Alberta in 2018 are believed to have a positive impact on controlling beetle populations in that province.

Gardeners concerned about beetles can hand-pick adults in the spring and monitor larval activity throughout the summer.

An adult female can lay up to 450 eggs in a single growing season.

Eggs are usually laid in batches of 12 on the underside of the leaves.

The eggs hatch into larvae within one to two weeks, and the larvae feed for three to four weeks, with feeding activity usually concentrated on the underside of lily leaves or at the nodes, where the leaf and stem meet.

Mature larvae burrow into the soil to pupate and emerge as adults after about 20 days to continue feeding until frost.

Diatomaceous earth can be used to control emerging adults.

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